A Gen Z-er’s Take on Preparing Your Workplace for the Next Generation

Much speculation has been made about how Gen Z will embrace the workplace, so Ted Moudis’ Kate Wieczorek collaborated with Gen Z-er, Gabby Mastropolo, to share her unique insights, and what they expect from their employers.

Alphasights work zone
Alphasights New York City office  – Photo by Bjorg Magnea

Gen Y, Gen Z, Millennials, Baby Boomers, Traditionalists. We are constantly trying to classify people within a similar age group because they share many of the same experiences, attitudes, and values. Assigning nomenclature to categorize populations can be helpful in conducting studies, but when it comes to basic human needs, research has shown that the various generations are more united than divergent. The needs to be heard, feel supported, grow and develop, connect and socialize, and of course the need to disconnect permeates across all generations. This filters over to the workplace environment, and it is how we seek to address these needs that may differ across groups. One individual may say they can only focus in an office, another only with headphones in a busy coffee shop. The basic needs are the same; how they are solved is where the uniqueness exists. Nevertheless, the next few years will see five generations existing simultaneously within one workplace and it helps to understand the next cohort to join the ranks.

The next generation of workers to enter the workforce is Gen Z, also referred to as “iGen.” Born into the digital age between 1996 to 2012, this generation has never known a time without modern technology. Much speculation has been made about how Gen Z will embrace the workplace, and what changes the workplace will undergo to support them.

At Ted Moudis Associates, we had the opportunity of having Gabrielle Mastropolo work within our Workplace Strategy department. As a self-identified Gen Z-er, she shared with us her unique insights into what can be expected from Gen Z, and, just as important – what they expect from their employers.

A booth at Institutional Investor's NYC office
A booth at Institutional Investor’s NYC office – Photo by Brent Gollnick

 It Used to be All About Millennials…

Before we can grasp where the workplace is headed with Gen Z, we must first understand the shift in the traditional workplace that occurred with Gen Y, colloquially known as “Millennials.” Born between 1981-1996, Millennials entered the workforce around 2003 with a clear understanding of what they wanted, and expected, from their company. Growing up partially surrounded by technology and the internet, Millennials are very comfortable in the mobile, tech-based work environments we see today. With this increased flexibility in where, when, and how one can work, Millennials are more likely to blend their professional and personal lives. This blend of professional and personal instigated the shift in the workplace to be a place of both individual work tasks and social, collaborative, and fun activities. A strong and vibrant culture is valued highly across the demographic. With movement and different types of activities within the workplace increasing, workplace strategists and designers implemented a variety of activity-based workspaces to better accommodate the need for a vibrant culture and teamwork within the work environment.

alphasights meeting room
Alphasights NYC office’s private meeting rooms – Photo by Bjorg Magnea

…Next Up: A Gen Z-er Perspective from Gabby Mastropolo

Gen Z-ers have sometimes been defined as competitive and independent self-learners. However, I find that most of my generation isn’t competitive – it’s more that we are individualists who perhaps may not be fans of the typical collaborative atmosphere. We consider ourselves ambitious and want to move up quickly in our careers. As such, group work and collaboration can make us feel like we are being held back if we are not working with high performers. For iGen, the ability to focus and understand “the big picture” is critical. If a group isn’t aligned on focus and a cohesive determination to achieve success, Gen Z-ers prefer to work on their own. According to Ernst and Young’s Next Gen Workplace Report, more than half of Gen Z-ers prefer independent work to teamwork.[i] [1]That’s not to say we don’t like being social. Most of Gen Z prefers face-to-face vs. virtual interaction with coworkers and managers as we find it the most effective way to communicate.[2]

Institutional Investor workspace
Institutional Investor workspace in New York City – Photo by Brent Gollnick

What Does This Mean in Terms of Workplace?

As Gen Z joins the workforce, there will be a combination of generations existing in one work environment. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Open vs. Enclosed Spaces: I’ve found that both Millennials and Gen Z like working in a more open space, as long as they have access to places for solo, undisturbed work. The ability to choose where one works best is of paramount importance to their success in the modern workplace environment.
  • Wellness / Focus on Mental Health: According to Ernst and Young’s Next Gen Workplace Report, Gen Z and younger Millennials rate workforce perks differently than the older generations[3]. Of particular importance are employee wellness programs. In my experience, the importance of mental health awareness is an extremely important topic for my generation. We are more likely to want to work for companies that value their employees’ well-being.
  • Individuality: As individualists, members of Gen Z want to be treated as just that— individuals. We see ourselves as not just another number on an organization’s payroll, but as an individual contributor to a larger community. Gen Z-ers work best in environments which encourage employees to own their uniqueness and embrace their individuality through company policies and opportunities to contribute value.
  • Recruiting: Recruiting Gen Z-ers can be a challenge. We have grown skeptical of larger companies, which stems from concerns over unethical practices we have read about in the news. Our generation is very keen on sustainability and wellness and need to know that the values of the companies we work for mirror our own. We prefer unique ways of outreach, and as such, [4] introducing your company through YouTube videos or other multimedia methods is a great way to grab our attention. We are very visual and need to be able to envision what it would be like to work for your organization.

Gen Z-ers, like all generations, have their own nuances. But there are universal basic needs across all ages: feeling heard and supported and presented with opportunities to learn and grow. If we focus on these fundamental rights and foster environments to serve these needs, we will support not only the next generation, but also those to come.

 

Sources:

[1] Next-gen workforce: secret weapon or biggest challenge?” Ernst & Young

[2] This is How Generation Z Will Communicate at Work”Inc.

[3] Next-gen workforce: secret weapon or biggest challenge?” Ernst & Young

[4] This is How Generation Z Will Communicate at Work”Inc

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1 Comment

  • Hi Gabrielle,
    You’re right, every one works differently especially when it comes to the mix of generation. It’s important to get the working environment for both, ensuring both can work together and create an ideal working atmosphere.
    I enjoyed your article and understanding the differences, it was very interesting.

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